Pope Francis recently installed 19 new cardinals in a ceremony at the Vatican, the first that he has chosen in his pontificate. Most of the new Cardinals hail from outside Europe and North America, and the group includes the first Cardinal from the long-impoverished nation of Haiti. Kishore Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome, spoke with the BBC about what this new group of Cardinals means for the Roman Catholic Church, and how they reflect the changing face of the church in the 21st century. This interview originally aired on February 22, 2013.
Yesterday, Cardinals choose Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina to be the new pope. A The Detroit News editorial points out that “[t]hirty-nine percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America, making this pope a fitting choice for many Catholics.”
Countries with the largest number of Catholics include Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines and U.S. One hundred years ago, that landscape was shifted toward Europe, with France and Italy housing the greatest number.
The Detroit News asked Acton Research Fellow Michael Miller to comment on Bergoglio’s selection:
the choice of Bergoglio came as a surprise to many. But [Miller is] confident the new pope will offer continuity by preserving the strong intellectual tradition carried by Benedict XVI and John Paul II while upholding personal holiness.
Plus, Miller believes Bergoglio’s choice of the name Francis is symbolic of the kind of leader he’ll be. The name could refer to several Catholic saints, including Francis Xavier and Francis of Assisi. Between these saints, they advocated church reform, deep concern for the poor and evangelization. Bergoglio’s own background revolves around social justice and working with the marginalized.
The church needs a leader who can wear many hats, from bringing people to the faith to cleaning up problems both inside and outside the Vatican. Bergoglio has accepted the role with humility and seems ready to begin.
Detroit News reporter Oralandar Brand-Williams interviewed Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton’s Rome office, about preparations at the Vatican to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI. A date for the conclave, the assembly of cardinals that will elect the next pope, has not yet been set. Jayabalan said that there is no cause for concern. “They need to wait for all the voting cardinals to arrive before deciding on the date,” he told The News. “There’s a sense it’s better to take some time rather than rush it.”
The Italian news agency ANSA is reporting that “Hong Kong bishop John Tong Hon, one of the last cardinal electors set to come to Rome for the conclave, arrived in the Italian capital early on Wednesday.”
Read “Cardinals taking their time electing pope’s successor” by Oralandar Brand-Williams in The Detroit News.
There is one thing certain about picking a new pope: there is nothing certain about picking a pope. While there are predictions that the conclave could begin as soon as tomorrow, it likely will take longer for the cardinals to start the sealed process.
The Rev. Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, believes the process will moved quickly once it begins.
Sirico, who is traveling to Rome this week, said he expects the process to move swiftly.
“I will be surprised if we didn’t have a date for the conclave by the end of (today),” said Sirico. “My guess is that it will be a week later.”
Under the church’s constitution, the cardinals would have been required to set the conclave between March 15 and March 20, but in one of his last acts as pope, Benedict allowed the cardinals to change the date.
There is a general feeling among the cardinals to move the process along, but not all the cardinals have arrived at the Vatican yet. As with nearly everything at the Vatican, there is a strictly formal process: the dean of cardinals greets those present, there is time for prayer and meditation, and a pledge of secrecy regarding the proceedings. There is also a drawing to see which cardinals will act as assistants during the conclave. In addition, this is the first time many of the cardinals have met, or seen each other in a long time, and time is set aside for fraternizing.
“They will take a kind of reading of where the cardinals see the church and what are the needs of the church,” said Sirico.
The cardinals will meet twice today in morning and late afternoon sessions beginning around 3:30 a.m. Detroit time.
“They will probably have a date for the conclave late Monday,” said Sirico.
“If they don’t, then that tells you there are strong disagreements.”
While many are making predictions as to who the next pope will be, it is still a process that can be quite unpredictable. The election of a pope from Poland in the not-so-distant past is a good reminder of that.